In the past few years, I have become a pretty serious yogini, although I have taken breaks from my practice I have learned so much about myself through the process. Here are just a few of the lessons I have learned:
How you are in your practice is how you are in your life. Yoga has given me a new understanding of how I respond to challenges and obstacles. In practice when I come to a new pose or balance that I find challenging my first response is criticism, and then I criticize myself for being critical, and THEN I reach openness. After much practice, I am now less critical of myself when I come to a challenge that I can’t conquer right away. In my life, I have also learned to be less critical and to approach challenges in a new way. Instead of assuming that I will fail, I step back and appreciate my strengths and my ability to achieve my goals.
Your mind is like a file cabinet. This is a metaphor I used a lot when I was working as a middle school counselor. I would ask students to think of their mind as a file cabinet with a trash can right next to it on the floor. Then I would ask them for some examples of files they would keep and files they would get rid of. Fear, anxiety, negativity, and resentment are examples of files that can stick in our minds if we give them a place there. Or we can choose to throw them in the trash and declutter the file cabinet in our minds. Hope, joy, ease and peace are files we can focus on and keep forever, they never clutter up our minds but help us to stay organized and clear headed. When a file starts to clutter up your mind imagine throwing it away in the trash can and make room for the files that will increase joy and ease. This is easier said than done and takes practice, but it has been a great visual for me!
Embrace the process. Anyone who has practiced yoga with any regularity will know the joy and bliss of reaching savasana. This is the pose at the end of your practice where you lay on your back and close your eyes. But the only way that you can really appreciate the bliss of this pose is if you have challenged yourself throughout your practice. It is so satisfying to lay in savasana knowing that you just conquered a new pose or stretched a little further than last time. I have learned this valuable lesson and have begun to apply it to my everyday life. Although the process is not alway easy or even enjoyable, the end result of hard work and dedication makes it worthwhile.
Discomfort and pain are two very different things. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to slow down or stop because whatever you’re doing could be hurting you. Discomfort is something that I have learned to recognize and I ask myself in that moment what is causing the discomfort. There is a good chance, especially in yoga, that discomfort is coming from a pose that I am trying for the first time, from feeling tired or frustrated. And none of these is a good enough reason to stop. Trying things for the first time is difficult, but I can accept that I might look silly or not get it right. Being tired is a sign that I am working hard and frustration should be a motivator to keep trying.
What gifts has yoga given you?